As the US Supreme Court considers an affirmative action case in the current session I am reminded that Atlanta leaders have been determined to act lawfully but boldly to include African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, women and small businesses even when the odds were stacked against them. In fact, Atlanta is known across the country and world for its minority contracting initiatives. This includes the construction of MARTA in the 1970’s, Olympic venues in the 1990’s, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for over three decades.
Some well-known Atlanta champions of these contracting programs were former Northside City Council members like Richard Guthman and Barbara Asher and former mayors Sam Massell, Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young. Each generation of leaders has weighed the political and legal consequences of such programs. Many administrations faced court challenges, sometimes even at the federal level. In their own way these champions challenged the status quo which excluded minorities, women and small businesses from equal economic business opportunities.
Without minority contracting programs Atlanta would not be the city it is today. Generations of businesses and businesspeople demonstrate the success of the programs here. The Atlanta model for economic diversity became the blueprint for many other places including the federal government. While the members of the US Supreme Court weigh the merits of this affirmative action suit from Texas, they ought to be cognizant of Atlanta and the others places where affirmative action has succeeded and not just default to their usual conservative or liberal stances as explained in Jeneba Ghatt’s blog post “Affirmative Action Apocalypse?”